On Indianapolis Art Museum’s Campus Bicycle Ban

Arriving to the campus of the Indianapolis Art Museum by bicycle from the Central Canal Towpath has long been one of my favorite experiences of living in the city. Unfortunately, in an initiative that started along with their new admission charge, they have disallowed bicycle access to the front door. The path labeled as “Stroller access to 100 Acres” in the map below is now cut off at the top of the hill with gates:

They’ve also blocked the pedestrian and bicycle entrance at 42nd Street, which went over a neat old bridge that crossed an interurban track:

Image Credit: http://bridgehunter.com/in/marion/bh41292/
Image Credit: http://bridgehunter.com/in/marion/bh41292/

So, without access to the 2 best entries, how are cyclists to enter the museum? I wasn’t sure either, so I looked it up. The webpage confirmed my fears:


Take the Canal Towpath to the Michigan Road bridge. Enter via the main entrance off of 38th Street. Bike racks can be found near the main entrance and in the parking garage.

I visited the museum area with my 4 year old in a trailer behind me. I’m not about to ride with her on Michigan Road or 38th Streets. The other option is to park the bike next to 100 Acres and walk up the hill. This is not an ordinary Indianapolis hill of about 10 feet, but it’s a relatively significant slope, especially for families. Riding a bike on a low gear is actually much easier than getting children up it on foot.

Indianapolis’ bicycle blog, IndyCog, has reached out to the IMA to address their concerns. According to a post on IndyCog’s facebook page (dated May 13th) there was a public meeting with the cycling community, but there were no new details released at this time for any changes. Meanwhile, there’s no discount for walking or biking to the IMA, even though the new $18 admission includes the price of automobile parking. This removed one of my favorite initiatives in recent memory and replaced it with the exact opposite, incentivizing automobile travel over all other modes.

It was not a bad idea to remove bicycles from the IMA grounds to increase pedestrian safety, which is their claim. The problem was they didn’t give cyclists another safe route. And they have not given the cycling community hope that this problem will be solved in the future. A good option would be a cycling-only path that parallels the IMA side of Michigan and 38th Streets that comes straight from the towpath. Connect it with bicycle-friendly 42nd Street with highly visible intersection markings. There may be other ways that would also work. I just hope these options are considered and put into action, because I’m not the only person who’s considering dropping my membership due to this issue.

Comments 98

  • Was just talking about this over the weekend… what other museum can’t you even sit on the front steps of?

    Can’t agree more on 38th and Michigan Rd – two of the most dangerous streets in Indy to ride on. And there aren’t any adjacent sidewalks! The IMA basically told everyone who doesn’t have a car to just not come.

    • I didn’t even know that there were no sidewalks, but it appears to be true. This may raise ADA compliance issues as well.

    • We have had a family membership for years. I have never seen a safety issue with bicyclists and pedestrians at the IMA. That’s not what this is. It is to discourage visits from people not paying the $18 fee. As a member I can visit for free, but now I can’t easily bicycle to the IMA. Now I am reconsidering my membership. There are other arts organizations in town I can support instead. I will miss the IMA, but not that much.

  • What a bunch of foolishness. If you don’t want people coming to the museum, just say so. I’m happy to oblige.

  • The IMA needs sime good PR people because they screwed this one up. They are telling people, “We don’t want you here unless you drive.” This is unfortunate and short sighted.

    • I am (but not sure for how long) a supporting member of the IMA. Have always enjoyed spending time on the grounds as a peaceful respite. Just last weekend I went to just walk around the grounds but was barred from doing so as I was stopped at a guard station. It appeared my membership was not recognized which was a surprise to me because it always was when they had the guard stations for the parking lot (which are now gone). I then spent most of my time backtracking my steps around to the museum and then forced to wait in a long line of first time visitors asking questions and applying for memberships, and because of this the line was not moving. This long wait was just to get a paper wristband allowing me entrance into the grounds!! I was put off by all the ugly barricades, signs and unsightly plastic fencing. Some of the walking paths were designed as passageways that now are completely blocked and not accessible. What a shame. I am also a bicyclist and have on occasion visited by bicycle via the canal path. I think that these changes will discourage many from visiting and eventually cause a loss in the support of many existing members. I would also add that at no time was I ever “disturbed” or felt the peaceful surroundings disrupted by any bicyclists whizzing past me while on the grounds. The particular bicyclists that would be visiting the grounds of the IMA are the kind that would be the most safety minded and conscious of their surroundings. The IMA has a beautiful setting to be enjoyed and embraced by the public but instead attempts to block all access.

  • I was considering purchasing a family membership. With this new bicycle policy, I’m putting that idea on hold. Agree they need a ne PR person.

    • I would put it on hold. Ironic that this issue on limiting bicyclists coincides with a exhibit celebrating automobile design.

  • It was one of my favorite things to do. I wish the museum would give 42nd access back. They could mark a bike lane and rules, including a 5 mph speed limit. Cyclists are usually very courteous and would obey these rules. I wish the museum could be more accommodating to the bicycle community.

  • I don’t even really care about riding my bike in to park and visit the museum. I really like just riding around and through the grounds….Broadripple, through Butler, through the museum or vice versa and downtown. What a shame that this is no longer an option.

  • We need a campaign to try to change this. Their lack of forethought needs to be addressed. I wrote reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp…have called several times…I think they are tired of me. Just when Indy is becoming more bike friendly!!! Call IMA and let them know how you feel. If they don’t change, I plan to rescind my membership!!!

    • Visibility is the key here. Public Relations Manager for IMA is Stephanie Perry; The Deputy Director for Public Programs and Audience Engagement IMA is Preston Bautista; Indy Star Arts reporter: Michael Anthony Adams michael.adams@indystar.com 444-6123 twitter:@MichaelAdams317; submit a letter to the editor INDYSTAR: http://static.indystar.com/en/submitletter/.

      • David, We are well aware of the concerns from the biking community. Rather than inundating staffers with emails, consider sending your suggestions for improving safety to ima@imamuseum.org. It is a much more efficient means of sharing your input. Thanks!

        • I was grappling for an avenue for communication. I am encouraged by the IMA interfacing with the community on this forum and provided *constructive* dialog. I still feel that we are at a bit of an impasse regarding entrance from the canal side of campus for members (and gate paying patrons alike), and that safety is the one thing being overlooked. But am I to understand that I can check in (for members) or pay admission (for non-members) at the Lily Pavilliion in the 100 acres? This would be a great solution to the problems addressed by the cycling *and* pedestrian advocates. Thanks again IMA rep for meeting us in the forum to discuss policy and possible solutions!

          • Very sorry for the delay in responding, Mike. Yes, you can check in (members) or pay admission (non-members) at Oldfields (aka ‘the Lilly house’) or at the Guest Services desk by Deer Zink (at the rear of the Museum). There is no ‘check in’ at The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres. It is open dawn to dusk for free. We continue to consider solutions to concerns raised and appreciate constructive input or feedback regarding how we can improve the visitor experience. While these changes mean that the IMA experience will be different than it was in the past, they do not mean that we place any less value in our Guests. Please feel free to reach out any time at web@imamuseum.org.

          • Sorry, David. I called you Mike. 🙂

        • In other words…..don’t send your complaints to individuals at IMA…just send them to a mailbox at IMA that is generally ignored. We wouldn’t want Stephanie, or Preston or Charles to have to actually listen to complaints.

  • It seems very strange that IMA has taken the exact opposite approach of most other Indy venues, which are increasingly supportive of bicycle & family culture.

    • Nancy, We are no less supportive of bicycles and families than we have been in the past. We have actually added more family programming than we have ever had, and we have monthly Family Days, the next of which is Saturday, June 6. The fact that we have chosen to have a portion of our property be pedestrian-only does not mea that we are any less supportive of bicyclists who commute to the IMA. The Canal Towpath is a safe (and quite lovely) arrival point, and we have bike racks on either side of the Towpath on which Guests ca park their bikes. We continue to work toward additional solutions for bikers, some of which were raised by this very blog post. You can read more about how to access the IMA via the Canal Towpath here: http://www.imamuseum.org/blog/2015/05/30/indianapolis-museum-of-art-bike-access-route/. Please feel free to direct any questions to us here or via web@imamuseum.org

  • Hope the IMA will step up to the plate and come up with a creative alternative.

  • This is just one of the terrible consequences of the IMA’s bid to ‘Improve the Visitor’s Experience’ by deciding to charge $18 and wall off the gardens. The press release regarding these changes back in November should have been titled ‘How We are Planning to Ruin the IMA for Everyone’. Did not renew my family membership when the time came this May out of disgust and dismay for this short-sighted initiative.

  • I am a very disappointed IMA member. The museum as always been my favorite apre work ride. I always delighted in the place. Seems short sighted on the part of museum in a state that’s suffered such a reputation for being fat, sedentary and non-inclusive. #art #inclusive #cycling

    • Elizabeth, Two-thirds of our property continues to be available to bikers. The IMA is comprised of 252 acres. The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres is open daw to dusk, is free to the public and open to bikers. Feel free to visit and enjoy a ride there any time.

      • I’m still trying to imagine a scenario where you would ask drivers to climb a long 50 foot high hill (with their kids) to access the museum. The idea seems preposterous to me, just as preposterous as the IMA’s apparent solution for cyclists. This is why there is still a discrepancy between what you are saying and what we are saying. People feel like they are being discriminated against for riding a bicycle, when it’s a transportation mode that should be encouraged for long-term city sustainability.

      • How does 100 acres out of a total of 252 equal two-thirds? 100 areas is approximately 40 percent .

        • I don’t think the social media director who originally posted this is any longer on the staff of the IMA, so I’ll give it a try. In addition to the 100 acres of the lower campus, parts of the upper campus are also accessible by bicycle. There is an entrance south of the old pedestrian entrance on Michigan Road, and you can ride through the IMA to the 38th St. entrance. This doesn’t make the situation better, and I am still opposed to everything they are doing, but I think this is how the arrived at the 2/3 calculation.

  • I think you hit the nail on the head, Kevin, when you made it clear that they’re offering a de facto disincentive for anyone but cars, since the $18 admission includes parking. For many years (up until now), the IMA grounds have become an extension of the community space that the museum offers, but free…so a de facto public park. It’s a fairly vibrant space, just as the museum campus is in many cities. It’s almost as though this latest directive will achieve the opposite of vibrance. Perhaps it’s been a reaction to crime, but then IMA’s behavior would suggest that the best way to deter crime is to deter people altogether. Not usually a solution that links crime prevention with economic development. It will be interesting to hear the IMA’s rebuttal on this, if we get one. Sure seems, on first blush, like another poorly thought-out decision.

    • To be fair, city parks receive city funding. I think that is what will have to happen to get the IMA back to a semi-open campus. It is also a lever to exert force to stop changes the community doesn’t like.

      • Very astute point, Jon. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the IMA is a public entity. In fact, the IMA receives less than 1% of its operating budget from public (tax) dollars. Recently, we were compared to a number of museums across the Midwest and one in Paris. Further examination would have shown that a majority of those museums receive public funds in the way of tax dollars. This helps them to keep a low admission fee. One of the museums receives $110 million in tax dollars every year. Museum funding is a complicated topic. This document, published by the U.S. State Department provides an excellent overview of how U.S. museums are funded: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/amgov/133183/english/P_You_Asked_How_Are_Museums_Supported_Financially.pdf

        • I’m well aware that the IMA is not a public entity. In quite a few cities, neither the flagship art museum nor its grounds are public spaces. But, it goes hand in hand with being the flagship art museum that it would want to function as the figurative “front door” to the city’s arts & culture community by being as welcoming of a place as possible. It is very, very common for an art museum’s grounds to operate like a park…if it isn’t already a private museum planted in a public park.

          Most art museums are inherently somewhat elitist because of the taste culture that they curate. But it can be a self-affirming elitism–a notion of feeling like a sophisticate or a “real grown up”, through a once-a-year trip to an art museum, but still something that many social strata can buy into. Art is good for you, but it doesn’t have to be like a dose of cod liver oil.

          On the other hand, discouraging people from using the grounds and charging disproportionately high prices for a city of Indy’s size only reinforces the fussy, snooty aspect of elitism…like a disgruntled librarian shushing everyone every five minutes.

          Does the current IMA leadership want to bring art to the masses? From these last few actions, it’s hardly clear.

          • Jon, Two-thirds of the IMA property, The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, is available dawn to dusk for free to the public — and bikes.

            Despite the frequent assertions of elitism on social media, we welcome guests from all walks of life at the IMA on a daily basis. We participate in the Access Pass program to support financially challenged families. We provide free membership to students attending the six 4-year universities in Indianapolis. We participate in the Blue Star program. Purchasing an IMA membership at $70 (online) means that a family of four, who visits the IMA four times per year, pays $4.38 per person per visit (cheaper than the movies, sporting events, dinner out…). We offer free days. And it is our desire to continue to expand all these opportunities. Would it be wonderful to continue to offer free admission? Yes. Would we love to do it? Yes. Can we afford to do so? Unfortunately, that answer is no.

            But that does not mean that we will not continue to work to find ways to strike a balance and seek out funding opportunities to support those goals. You might be interested in learning more about the changes at the IMA and the history behind them, which were presented at our Annual Membership Meeting on May 20, 2015. http://www.imamuseum.org/about/governance-administration

            In as much as the IMA is accused of ‘not listening to’ or ‘not acting on’ demands, it’s tough to actually have a dialog when so many conversations involve being called names or being accused of acts of community treason.

  • Agree Kevin. I won’t be visiting this museum anymore until they create a safe entry for bike access and walking to the IMA (i.e. doesn’t include Michigan or 38th streets). I’ll pay $13, but I’m not going to pay $18 when I don’t want to drive my car and pay to park there.

  • I suggest that readers who care about this issue write directly to the IMA Director, Charles Venable. I think the IMA is quite wrong-headed in its thinking about this issue, but I will give Dr. Venable credit for answering every email message that comes to him. If he gets tired enough of answering email messages from upset cyclists (particularly members), then maybe something will change.

    Bill Watts

  • Regarding the stroller path to 100 acres, all of the gates were closed and locked Monday, Memorial Day. This was at 2 pm. My wife and 2 young children had to “sneak” in through a service entrance by lifting a stroller over the barricade. Not the most welcoming feeling, as you can imagine. The IMA grounds used to be so open and accessible for everyone, from any entrance. A public treasure that could be enjoyed freely by everyone. Now it feels locked up, closed off, inaccessible to anyone not driving an automobile with a costly membership in hand. Such a shame.

  • Kevin, Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions regarding the IMA’s bike policy. Suggestions for improvement are always much appreciated, and we continue to review options for improving safety for everyone on our campus. We understand that the recent changes to the IMA are dramatic for our neighbors, who have long enjoyed free access to the Museum and formal gardens.

    We recognize the fact that, although we made considerable efforts to communicate these changes over the past five months, there are still many who were left unaware and surprised when they took effect. These changes occurred out of the very real need to ensure the longevity of the IMA for generations to come. If you are interested in learning more about the reasons behind the transition, we hope that you will take the time to view the video of Charles Venable, PhD addressing guests at our Annual Membership meeting on May 20, 2015 (http://www.imamuseum.org/about/governance-administration). His presentation answers a number of the questions that many have posed about the changes to our admission policy and entrance to the campus.

    We are aware of your concerns both as a biker and a member of the community, and we will continue to seek outlets for connecting in order to arrive at solutions that keep you safe while traveling to the IMA.

    • I don’t want “free access” to the Museum gardens – my family and I are members of the IMA, and glad to pay. But, we don’t want to die riding our bikes to the Museum. Access via bicycle on 38th Street and Michigan Road is not a viable option – there are no bike lanes or sidewalks. So, I’m glad you’re seeking “outlets for connecting in order to arrive at solutions”, provided that means that you are actually going to fix the problem that you’ve created.

      • Michael, Appreciating your concern for safety, have you considered entering via the tow path that runs along the canal and connects to both The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres and the lower campus? It provides a safe alternative to the 38th Street entrance. Understanding that bike traffic would increase from the tow path, we also installed Guest Services desks at both the Lilly House and just inside of the entrance to Deer Zink so that guests don’t have to walk all of the way to Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion.

        • The problem is that there is no bike parking in those areas. People are supposed to park their bikes at the bottom of the hill and walk up. Or at least that was what I was informed by the gatekeeper last Friday.

          • Kevin,

            This is a good point, and the placement of the bike racks likely has to do with the fact that the formal gardens are pedestrian only. It is something worth considering. Thanks.

          • First of all, thanks for visiting and commenting.

            Second, I think if the “stroller path” could once again be open to bicycles, and if there were a decent-sized bike rack at the Deer Zink pavillion entrance, it would likely be an acceptable alternative for me. That stroller path also contains the IMA’s loading docks, so it’s open to delivery vehicles, pedestrians, but not bicycles. This does not make any sense to me.

        • One obvious improvement would be to consider better directions for bicyclists on your own website. This is what is currently there:

          “Take the Canal Towpath to the Michigan Road bridge. Enter via the main entrance off of 38th Street. ”

          In the 20+ years of living in Indy I’ve logged more running & biking miles in and around the IMA, Towpath & general area of your campus than most and have a hard time deciphering where you are trying to tell people on bikes to go. If bicycle access were a part of the planning process involved with the recent changes there would have been more thought put into these directions. As written they appear to be an afterthought.

          I’d be happy to donate time to help develop better written instructions as well as maps that would better demonstrate the directions you are attempting to communicate. Just let me know!

          • Nathan, Your input would be greatly appreciated. We have tried many ways to explain the entry process from the tow path, but understand that it may not be entirely clear. Please feel free to connect directly at web@imamuseum.org. Looking forward to hearing from you.

          • [suggested directions]
            Entry from the Towpath: Take the Towpath Trail to the Michigan Road. There is a small ramp leading up to Michigan Road from both directions. Use the south ramp (riding northbound on the Towpath Trail) to access the sidewalk along the southbound lanes of Michigan Road (the same side as the IMA).

            Ride on the sidewalk until you reach the now closed gate at 42nd Street. At this point, you will need to enter onto Michigan Road because there are no sidewalks. Please be careful, the speed limit on Michigan Road is 45mph, but drivers routinely drive 60 mph. Be especially careful, as a collision at even 45 mph has a 40-50% chance of death* and a nearly 100% chance of serious bodily injury (should you survive). Enjoy your trip!


        • Yes, entering via the Tow Path is awesome, and our preferred method of entry. Your messaging in this regard could certainly use some improvement so members can know exactly where they are supposed to go with their bikes.

    • It doesn’t matter how much time you give to communicate a bad policy. Its still a lousy policy. You have a readily available accessible entry point (42nd Street) and you close it. I understand the IMA needs to encourage paying customers. I am one, but this is going the wrong direction.

  • It has always bothered me that the IMA is not centrally located downtown for everyone to enjoy. What put my mind at ease was the very pleasant and connected White River Greenway, Canal Towpath and bridge onto the IMA grounds that would allow for people on bikes to commute to the museum and seem very welcomed. It is clear that the model of an IMA for all has eroded to the point where one can no longer safely access the campus.

    • Joe, You might be interested in reading the history of the Museum so that you can learn about why we are located at 38th & Michigan. Here is a link in case you are interested: http://www.imamuseum.org/about/history. And, to clarify, our campus is actually accessible via the Canal tow path. This is exactly the route that we encourage those arriving by bike to take.

      • As Kevin indicated in the post, your website states that cyclists should enter via the 38th St. entrance. You should consider updating the website if you are truly encouraging cyclists to enter via the Canal Towpath.

        • I want to echo Chris’s concern, and ask for clarification for the assertion of the IMA representative’s posting here that the campus is accessible from the Canal Towpath (presumably via the Waller bridge). Could that rep provide some clarification between the stated policy on the web page that all visitors must enter the campus via 38th or Michigan Road, and the suggestion by the Rep here that access to the campus via the Canal Towpath is recommended? Also, which guest services check-in is closest and recommended for vistors (members and gate-paying patrons alike) entering the via the Waller bridge? Lilly House? Deer Zink (not labeled on map)? Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion (also not labeled on map)?

          • This just up at the IMA webpage (http://www.imamuseum.org/blog/2015/05/30/indianapolis-museum-of-art-bike-access-route/):
            “We welcome bikes at the IMA, and we suggest that bikers arrive via the Canal Towpath, to ensure that our guests arrive safely. Bikers who are commuting to the IMA can enter via the Canal Towpath, cross the Waller Bridge (the red bridge that connects the Museum and formal gardens with the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres), can park their bike at the bike rack and walk up to our Upper Campus.”
            Thank you for hearing us. And, it’s ok IMA PR Rep, you can call me Mike, just don’t call me Shirley 😉

  • While I appreciate the IMA’s willingness to enter into dialogue in this forum and in other venues, there are three things that I find really frustrating. First, there seems to be no flexibility and no willingness to rethink decisions. I have to think that there is some way to re-open the Michigan Rd. pedestrian entrance, and I also think that it would make enormous good sense to allow cyclists to ride up the stroller path. But neither of these adjustments seem possible. Secondly, there seems to be no ability to think through these issues as a cyclist would. If you are in a car, it makes no real difference if you enter on Michigan Rd. or on 38th St. It’s just an additional minute in climate-controlled comfort. But if you are trying to get around the world on a bicycle, these things matter, and there are real issues of safety here. Thirdly, the Art Museum claims to be making these changes to protect pedestrians. But, really, they are catering to motorists who drive to the art museum, become pedestrians for however long they are at the museum, and then return to the cars. People who are pedestrians before, after and during their visits to the art museum are completely disregarded.

    • Please see this new policy statement posted this evening: http://www.imamuseum.org/blog/2015/05/30/indianapolis-museum-of-art-bike-access-route/
      In particular this passage: “We welcome bikes at the IMA, and we suggest that bikers arrive via the Canal Towpath, to ensure that our guests arrive safely. Bikers who are commuting to the IMA can enter via the Canal Towpath, cross the Waller Bridge (the red bridge that connects the Museum and formal gardens with the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres), can park their bike at the bike rack and walk up to our Upper Campus.” Seems maybe they’ve heard us!

  • Is an $18 admission fee too high? I think so. I also think it’s particularly calculated to encourage people to buy a Dual/Family Membership (hint: it’s only $75 and a single trip for 2 would be $36). Museum funding is always tricky and tenuous, I get it.

    However, money aside, the real issue seems to be the IMA’s efforts to seal out the community. The grounds were a popular running route for many in the Butler Tarkington neighborhood by way of the 42nd Street gates. Similarly, many cyclists used the roads through the IMA to avoid the high speed traffic on Michigan Road, particularly when riding alone (group rides always used Michigan and 38th Streets – but, there’s more safety and visibility with 30 people).

    The IMA sits on the Broad Ripple/Butler CIBA route, one of the most popular cycling routes in Marion county. It was established in the late 1970s and serves everyone from Marion college students (perennial national collegiate cycling champions) to the average joe trying to stay fit. It’s a real shame that these riders are now forced to use less safe street options – Michigan Road and 38th Street.

    Put simply, it seems that IMA is being a poor member of the community.

    • I can’t say that I am all that happy that visitors who wish to bike to the IMA to visit the museum and grounds have much less safe options for doing so, but catering to the bikers that you are most concerned about is really not something that the IMA should prioritize. Individuals and groups of bikers and runners who used the IMA campus as a through-way alternative to the dangers of 38th and Michigan Road should really be contacting the city to inquire as to why such busy roads that connect to major bike/running routes in the city do not have easy access points for those coming to/from the area’s residential neighborhoods.

      It is not the responsibility of the IMA to provide safe biking and running paths for those just passing through–it is the city’s responsibility to provide and maintain usable paths. And before that can be accomplished, the real priority is for the city to create pedestrian sidewalks on all corners of the 38th and Michigan Road intersections, as there are multiple existing bus routes that drop riders off at stops completely disconnected from walkable paths.

      • By the same token, though, I wonder whether the mission of the IMA really is and should be to cater to motorists. A good portion of the grounds are given over to automobile parking, which is now free. In effect, those of us who do not drive are subsidizing drivers who park on the grounds.

        The IMA says that it is making these changes to protect pedestrians. What they really mean by this, though, is that they are protecting those who drive to the campus, and then walk around the grounds, and leave again by automobile.

        There is no reasonable provision for those of us who would like to arrive at the campus unde our own steam. We are either forced into traffic we don’t want to be in, or we must park our bicycles a long distance from the entrance. If we try to walk to the grounds, there are no sidewalk.

        So I would turn your point around, and ask you why it is that the IMA should cater to motorists, to the exclusion of cyclists and pedestrians.

      • Careful there. Part of the “museum” grounds is a public park…100 Acres. And it contains the Canal Towpath, a multi use path for pedestrians, cyclists, and runners.

        So the city does maintain a path.

        And today, where there are not sidewalks in Indianapolis, it is the responsibility of the property owner who redevelops land to install them.

        One might argue that any number of internal improvements on the IMA campus in recent years should have triggered them to pay for public sidewalks on their frontage.

        • 100 Acres is open to the public by choice, it is not city owned land. The land was also private land that was donated to the IMA by the quarry company Huber, Hunt and Nichols in 1972. The city path, of course, is owned and maintained by the city.

          Also, yes while a developer can be required to build infrastructure in return for approval of certain projects, these conditions are imposed by the city BEFORE approval is given, and you cannot retroactively go back and put requirements on a development. You would be very hard pressed to make a legal argument that the IMA has a responsibility to build and maintain public sidewalks just because they improved their grounds during previous projects–once someone is given approval to build and the project is done, the city cannot put retroactive conditions on the builder.

          The IMA may not be engaging in good PR, but they can and will do what they want with their property. I think it makes more sense to try to dialog with the IMA, rather than coming at the organization with a sense of entitlement and demanding–especially, if the IMA simply thinks the people complaining were just “free-loaders” who never gave to the IMA either through memberships or donations in the first place. Or, people can simply choose to go bike elsewhere in the city.

          • You would be very hard pressed to make a legal argument that the IMA has a responsibility to build and maintain public sidewalks just because they improved their grounds during previous projects–once someone is given approval to build and the project is done, the city cannot put retroactive conditions on the builder.

            And the IMA should be very hard pressed to come in these comments and tell us that the responsibility for sidewalks is on the city. Clearly, based on what Chris Barnett wrote, no one but the IMA is responsible for sidewalks leading to the museum. Granted they are optional, but the IMA should not be saying sidewalks are under city jurisdiction. They are not.

          • I stand corrected re 100 Acres.

            Regarding the responsibility for providing sidewalks: When I owned a house in the “old city limits”, I had a title abstract that showed a “Barrett Law” assessment against my property for the original sidewalks along both sides of my corner property.

            So, in Indianapolis, property owners were responsible for paying for their sidewalks when installed.

            Perhaps the city should simply install sidewalks at IMA and send IMA the bill through a property assessment.

            Problem solved.

  • A better option may be to contact the Board. That’s who the IMA staff answer to. There doesn’t appear to be an easy way to reach them via the IMA site. Anyone have contact info for these folks?

    Thomas Hiatt, Chair
    Matthew Gutwein, Vice Chair; Finance Committee, Chair
    Rick L. Johnson, Vice Chair; Investment Committee, Chair
    Ersal Ozdemir, Secretary; Government Relations, Chair
    Peter A. Morse Jr., Treasurer
    Lynne M. Maguire, At Large Member of Executive Committee; Compensation Committee, Chair
    Marya Rose, At Large Member of Executive Committee; Nominating Committee, Chair
    June McCormack, Immediate Past Chair; Development Committee, Chair
    Charles Venable, Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO

    The Honorable Sergio Aguilera
    Agatha S. Barclay
    Katie Betley, Buildings and Grounds Committee, Chair
    Mary Clare Broadbent
    Bradley (Brad) B. Chambers
    David Eskenazi
    Jane Fortune
    Kent Hawryluk
    Kay Koch, Collections Committee, Chair
    Michael Kubacki
    Deborah Lilly
    Benjamin A. Pecar, Audit Committee, Chair
    Derica W. Rice
    Michael Robertson, M.D.
    Susan Russell
    Jeffrey Smulyan

  • Management and Board at IMA should be ashamed of themselves. While I happen to believe the new admission policy and price point is elitist, excessive and greedy, I am also willing to consider IMA’s point of view and its challenges. This entire saga has been a public relations DISASTER. (I hope your not paying someone for PR on this little venture!) There was no conversation, no input, nothing at all. We all woke up one morning and learned that IMA would be building big walls and gates, and the lower and middle class folks in Indy were SOL. I read down this list of board members and shake my head… You should know better! Particularly those on the board who are asking the people of Indiana to buy them a new stadium (cough, cough).
    The Lilly Family bequeathed this beautiful land for Indianapolis to enjoy. You built a wall around it and charge an EXCESSIVE fee to see it. Sad state of affairs!

  • One thing that is disingenuous about the IMA’s explanation of its new program is the claim that it has drawn many new members. I doubt that it can be shown a single new member has come to the Museum as the result of the closing of the 42nd St. pedestrian gate. Quite the opposite: I expect that the museum has lost a modest number of members through the fortification of its grounds. On the other hand, though, offering steeply discounted memberships is a sure-fire way of gaining new members. I paste below an offer a friend of mine recieved. I did not get such an offer–did you?

    Dear *|FNAME|*,

    A new spectacle is coming to Indianapolis! Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the elite selection of visionary concept cars on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art this summer.

    Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas
    May 3 – August 23, 2015 – only at the Indianapolis Museum of Art
    Member Preview Days: May 1 – 2, 11 am to 5 pm

    Join the Indianapolis Museum of Art today, and you will have exclusive access to Member Preview Days on May 1 and 2, as well as a weekly members-only hour each Sunday from 11 am to noon throughout the run of the exhibition.

    You can join at the Dual/Family level for the price of an Individual membership – a $20 savings (use the online promo code 2UPGRADE after placing membership in your cart).

    Or, choose an Associate level membership for Dual/Family price and save $50 (use the online promo code 4UPGRADE after placing membership in your cart).

    Please don’t wait – this special membership offer ends May 10, 2015.


    Grace Meils
    Membership and Annual Giving Officer

    P.S. See below for instructions on how to use our new online ticketing and membership system.

  • I wasn’t happy about it, but I understood the need to charge admission to the museum. The bike policy is absolutely void of any rationale that makes sense. Fortunately there are many other places in the city to bike, spend money and patronize. Good luck with your plans.

    • I was under the impression that admission was charged prior to this, but only for the premium or special exhibits but the grounds themselves were free. If that were the case (and I believe it is) then all of this makes even less sense than ever.

      • Admission to the IMA was free (including all grounds) for all except special exhibitions. There was a brief period in 2007 when a lesser fee (I believe $7) was charged, but it was quickly revoked. You can find multiple articles (some with many comments) about the admission charge announcement last fall on the IBJ website.

  • Every single comment from the IMA on this blog post is tone deaf and reeks of tone-deaf corporate double speak. The IMA is not making any friends with the comments hear, nor are they making friends with the community around them.

    In general, many cultural entities around the country and world have started using innovative strategies to raise money, connect with the community, and open their collections to a wider audience. Everything the IMA has done over the past year has been the opposite.

    If they want to complete the alienation and isolation, I recommend they hire a scummy IP lawyer and start throwing around copyright and trademark lawsuits.

    Come on IMA, you are better than this. Dump that stuff board and your honorable Dr Charles Venable PhD and get some people with vision.

    • Sorry, stuffy board, not stuff board.

    • What exactly is “tone-deaf” about the comments? It seems their PR person is at least trying to answer community concerns and suggest solutions. A truly “tone deaf” attitude would be to either ignore this blog post entirely, or to post something to the effect of “it is our property and we can do what we want with it and we are not in the business of catering to bikers.”

      I personally do not think the IMA handled this transition very well, nor do I think they are doing the best job of community outreach. However, I think that it seems people like you believe the only thing that is not “tone deaf” is for the IMA to capitulate to your demands.

      Also, what is this comment about a “scummy” IP attorney? I did not read any threat from the IMA to shut down this blog post over any copyright or trademark claim. Your remark seems pretty off-topic.

  • I have had the pleasure of biking through IMA grounds on my way to work since the early 1980’s. The mist and light in the early morning is magical. This is heartbreaking on so many levels.

  • I’m just curious if the “less than 1% support” from the city also includes the value of the property tax and personal property tax exemptions IMA receives?

    If it were not an exempt business, IMA would pay property tax on its entire land and building value, plus its “business personal property”…its art collection… at 3% of assessed value. That tax is instead covered by the remaining Marion County taxpayers.

    I don’t think it’s whining or a sense of entitlement that leads people to expect a public-benefit not-for-profit would provide some clear and measurable public benefit in return for its tax-exempt status. At least count the fair value of the exemption as a contribution by “the city”.

    Bottom line/free advice to IMA: It would be a PR win, and remove some of this “noise”, to just put in multi-use paths along your Michigan and 38th frontages as a “public benefit”.

  • What I did not say clearly above: obviously IMA for decades provided a “public benefit” in allowing cyclists, pedestrians, and runners from the neighborhood free access to cross their grounds. Now IMA has removed that benefit.

    It would be just, equitable, fair, wise, and appropriate (also good PR) for IMA to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars to provide an alternate public benefit: build a public path (along the Michigan and 38th frontage) around the grounds as a substitute for the access that they have removed. This also removes the tone-deaf issue of insisting that the City (to which the IMA doesn’t pay taxes) should do so to fix a problem IMA caused.

    • The public benefit they provide is operating a museum, which is actually their main purposes as an organization. And, there is no requirement the public benefit has to be free (though, they do offer free days) nor even open to every member of the public. Churches and non-profit private clubs are pretty exclusive organizations and yet they also get a property tax exemption.

      I think all this is getting very far afield. Yes, it would be good PR for the IMA to offer a multi-use trail. Is the IMA required to do so? No.

      • Legalism isn’t a good approach to a public relations disaster.

        It’s crystal clear that the IMA took back, closed off, however you choose to phrase it, its park – like campus after decades of free and open public access, so that they could collect admission fees.

        The fair, just, and right thing for them to do is to provide an alternate path for those who were formerly able to cross their land for free.

        Sure, no one can force it but that’s not what this discussion is about, and not why I raised the point in this way.

        • Chris you brought up the alleged legal issues when you argued that the IMA potentially had some legal obligation to provide bicycle access. Neither I nor the IMA (to my knowledge) has responded with any “legalism.”

          I simply responded to your assertion that the IMA supposedly had a legal obligation to provide bicycle access with my observation based on my understanding of tax-exempt and development law that I thought your assertion was incorrect. That is not “legalism,” but rather what one calls a “discussion” or perhaps a “debate.”

          Also, if you had bothered to carefully read my comments, you would not I have stated more than once that I do not think the IMA has engaged in a good PR campaign.

          So, I find your response a bit odd, to say the least.

          Yes, the IMA used to have a campus open to bicycles, and now it has restricted their use on their main campus, though not on their 99 Acres Park or the city owned Canal towpath. No one is disputing this fact. You seem to be confusing the issues.

          • I don’t think legalism means what you think it means, Chris Brown. Chris Barnett is saying that while the IMA’s reasoning may be sound, it has shown to be very unpopular thus far and could hurt it from a public relations standpoint. While creating the atmosphere they are aiming for – quiet and undisturbed – they may be killing its vibrance.

          • Hi, I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but the term “legalism,” generally means to adhere to the letter of the law rather than to its spirit. So, perhaps Mr. Barnett is the one who does not understand the word.

            I appreciate that he disagrees with the IMA’s decision to limit bicycle access to its main campus (and probably he disagrees with the new admission charge). I agree with him that the IMA did a poor job of engaging the community before instituting the new changes with admission fees and bicycle access.

            That said, while I think it was wonderful the IMA was free for so many years, I do not object so much to the new admission fee since the IMA offers free nights, free access to students, and it offers annual memberships at a terrific value. Also, most museums in Indianapolis, including the ostensibly much more “family friendly” Children’s Museum charge admission (and in the case of the Children’s Museum, the admission charge is in higher).

            As for the bicycle policy, I agree there should be a better alternative than walking up a hill from 99 Acres. But, I do not think the museum needs to build a new bicycle path, which seems to be what Mr. Barnett is arguing the IMA should do. And, he did, in my opinion, imply there was some sort of legal obligation by the IMA to do this.

            Frankly, the City of Indianapolis should be using tax money to build bicycle lanes and paths here and throughout the city, not pushing this on to private parties–whether or not they are tax-exempt. Indianapolis always finds millions to hand to the Colts, Pacers, reconfigure roads around the Natatorium, subsidize electric cars, give tax breaks to developers, etc. I do not think this is the Museum’s responsibility, even if they decide to restrict bicycle use on their campus. The IMA’s main campus is not a public park, nor does it need to function as one.

            For now, the IMA could simply move the bike racks up to the main campus entrance and require individuals to lock them up by the main entrance–problem solved for bicycle access. For those not visiting the IMA, but just wanting cross bicycle access, this is a matter for the city to address by improving the intersection of 38th and Michigan Road for both pedestrians and cyclists.

  • I do not like this it is limiting my family’s fun time [wich was our fun time]

  • We have been riding our bikes on the tow path for some 42 years from our home in BTNA and crossing beneath Michigan Rd. on a board walk path in recent years. This is very safe. Our children are grown and now we enjoy riding frequently per usual the same way. However, now we are stopped cold at the bridge into the museum grounds. I am speaking of the steep hill one must cycle onto the grounds. We enjoy the museum itself many times and sometimes we park our bikes and walk the gardens. I do not mind paying to go to the museum. All museums we have been to have a price to pay. But, our retirement, lazy, summer etc days of enjoying leisurely rides through the grounds are over. How sad for us. Also, regarding pricing, why is there no 65 and over discount? The 42nd. St. entrance is also more easily accessed because there is not hill to climb with a bike or a walk. My husband can ride his bike but it is now difficult for him to ride up a steep hill or walk it due to problems with his legs. It would be so easy to access the gardens with a bike and a place to park it along the way. The pricing seems to have left out many in the city and out of towners who just cannot contribute the money it takes to be more educated in the arts, whether it is in the museum proper or the artistic gardens. Needles to say we are more than disappointed.

  • This isn’t an issue. The entire world does not need to be laid out to serve the momentary desires and aesthetic sensations of a few bicyclists.

    Are bicyclists now a “protected class?”

    IMA is set up to handle car traffic, and it can’t leave a gaping hole in its security or access for people to sneak past and not pay.

    If you go to IMA, take your car. The world does not have to alter its plans to indulge the desires of every narrow interest.

    Everyone goes to IMA with a car, anyway. IMA sits at the corner of a massive intersection, and it’s close to I-65 access.

    IMA is extremely accessible to 99.9999% of its visitors.

    • See Above:

      “Legalism isn’t a good approach to a public relations disaster.It’s crystal clear that the IMA took back, closed off, however you choose to phrase it, its park–like campus after decades of free and open public access, so that they could collect admission fees.The fair, just, and right thing for them to do is to provide an alternate path for those who were formerly able to cross their land for free. Sure, no one can force it but that’s not what this discussion is about, and not why I raised the point in this way.”

    • This is a remarkably obtuse posting, especially for an urban development blog. No institution in 21st-century Indianapolis should be set up exclusively for cars, nor should you have to own a car to visit a cultural institution. This is the mistake we made in developing the city from the 1970s to the early 2000s; we are now in the process of correcing our over-reliance on the automobile.

  • Friends, this issue has nothing to do with bios. It has everything to do with the fact that the IMA wants to keep those of use who are riff raft from their property.A normal family of four cannot go to the IMA and get a snack for less than $100 now. They have priced themselves for the crowd that can afford the new fees. Its working, I have not been and none of my friends have ben. Its too bad that IMA is using the bike issue as a red herring. The fact is they don’t want anyone there that does not come in a Benz. Its sad that so many of our youth cannot experience what the IMA has to offer. The boat has seen fit to keep us low life scum out of their perfect halls.

    • I think the comment is more than a little silly, especially considering the lauded Children’s Museum, located smack in the heart of one of the poorer neighborhoods in the city, has long charged admission to enter, and it is more expensive than the IMA. $18.50 for youths and a whopping $21.50 for adults. And, yet, families, most of them definitely not driving a Benz, flock to the place–1.2 million annual visitors, significantly more visitors than the IMA has ever had in a year.

      Yes, I agree the policy change was not communicated well to the general public, and it probably could have been thought out better, but drop the hyperbole and the utter nonsense. The plan, though perhaps misguided, boils down simply to finances, and it has nothing to do with keeping the so-called “riff raff” out.

      • I would say it is disingenuous to say that an entertainment venue like the Children’s Museum should operate in the same way as a cultural and educational institution like the IMA. Yes, they both have “museum” in the name, but they are not similar in their missions.

  • Sorry for the typo..Nothing to do with bikes…….

  • Not sure if it will do any good, but there is a Change.org petition against these changes at IMA. The information provided in the post does a clear job explaining how little affect the added admissions revenues will have on IMA’s finances. Check it out here:

  • I have entered the IMA campus twice in the past week around 6:00 PM on a bike from the Canal, once via the main paved road up from the bridge and once via the road marked service only or something like that near the Greenhouse. One time, the Michigan Rd. gate was up and I just left after riding around the campus, seeing no one. A second time, the same gate was down with a guard in his little house: I walked under the gate with my bike and told him I was on a protest ride and was a member of the museum, which is true. He was friendly and said, fine.

    The whole anonymous corporate tone of commenter, Indianapolis Museum of Art, is sad.

  • There is a sidewalk on the east side of Michigan Road. You can cross at the light at the entrance by picking up your bicycle over the curb and crossing with the light. It would be a simple solution to create a pedestrian/bicycle cross walk to enter the museum from this point to replace the 42nd street gate.

    You are free to ride into both gates and around the museum parking lot as far as I can see – and drive thru the Michigan to the 38th street entrances anytime just like before. You just cannot drive nor ride your bike back to the Lilly House and Greenhouse.

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